By Keith Idec
Leave it to the almost incomparably inept WBC to get it right and wrong all at the same time.
The 30-2 vote by the Mexico City-based sanctioning organization this week was an encouraging indication that its members fully realize Hopkins deserved better than a majority draw with Jean Pascal on Dec. 18 in Quebec City. And in terms of entertainment value, there is obviously much more demand for a Hopkins-Pascal rematch than a second bout between Pascal and Chad Dawson, whom Pascal beat by 11-round technical decision Aug. 14 in Montreal to set the stage for Pascal’s showdown with Hopkins.
If Dawson wasn’t owed a Pascal rematch, this would’ve marked a rare instance to commend the WBC for trying to ensure that Hopkins gets another shot at becoming the oldest boxer in the sport’s history to own a recognized world title.
But the WBC simply ignored the legal rights of Dawson, who just so happened to pay the WBC nearly a seven-figure sum in sanctioning fees for four WBC light heavyweight title fights in 2007 and 2008, and two more interim WBC light heavyweight championship bouts in 2009 and 2010. Dawson’s willingness to play the WBC’s shady sanctioning game alone warranted better treatment from Jose Suilaman’s greedy group.
Instead, he could be forced to pay more money to combat WBC-concocted nonsense if Pascal tries to use the WBC’s mandate as an excuse to bypass the rematch Dawson is owed next, now that Pascal has taken one interim title defense. Gary Shaw, Dawson’s Totowa-N.J.-based promoter, hopes such a standoff isn’t necessary.
The only way Pascal could circumvent his contractual obligation to Dawson, of New Haven, Conn., is if HBO Sports executives are unwilling to televise their rematch. HBO aired their first fight from Bell Centre, near where Pascal grew up in Laval, Quebec, and the network is expected to televise their rematch.
“My reaction [to the WBC’s ruling] is that we have a contract, and that the WBC can rule whatever they want,” Shaw told Boxingscene.com earlier Friday. “It doesn’t overrule the contract that I have with Yvon Michel [Pascal’s promoter]. Yvon Michel is a gentleman and I believe that he will honor our contract. I’m not going to go on record with anything other than that.”
Shaw then added, “Except that I will say that I trust Yvon Michel, and I believe that I have a solid contract for a rematch with Jean Pascal. I have a long-standing relationship with Yvon Michel. Yvon has always been a gentleman. He called me [Friday] to ask me for the dates that [HBO is] willing to do the fight, and I have sent a letter off to HBO requesting those dates.”
Hopkins, quite naturally, believes the WBC’s ruling will land him an immediate rematch against the Haitian-born, Quebec-bred Pascal (26-1-1, 16 KOs).
“I think the WBC just gave me an early birthday present,” Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOs, 1 NC) said in a statement released Friday. “They’ve done the right thing and are not going to let Pascal run from me again, like he did in the ring during our fight. I will show him and the rest of the world that those belts should have been mine the first time around.”
Hopkins, who’ll turn 46 on Jan. 15, definitely deserves a rematch.
He seemingly won seven rounds of the Pascal fight, perhaps as many as eight. Pascal’s knockdown of Hopkins late in the first round shouldn’t have counted, either, because Pascal’s punch to the back of Hopkins’ head was what clearly caused Hopkins to lose his balance.
Montreal-based referee Michael Griffin ruled that the knockdown was within the rules, however, and that suspect point deduction was the difference between two judges scoring Hopkins the winner and declaring the fight a draw. Canada’s Claude Paquette (113-113) and Belgium’s Daniel Van de Wiele (114-114) both scored the bout even, while the third judge, American Steve Morrow, had Hopkins ahead after 12 rounds (114-112).
The scorecards aside, Pascal-Hopkins was much more entertaining than Pascal-Dawson, especially since fighting in enemy territory seemed to force an invigorated Hopkins to employ an energized, risky offensive style he hasn’t always displayed in recent years.
“It was a competitive fight in the beginning, with some pockets in the middle, and it ended with flurries on both ends,” Hopkins told studio host Brian Kenny during a taped segment that was televised tonight as part of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” broadcast. “I believe I won the fight. I believe I won seven, maybe eight, of 12 rounds. There were two knockdowns early in the fight, and I question one of them. But he got credit for it. But in the end, I think I showed championship heart, I came on strong and I’m just looking forward to doing it again.”
Hopkins acknowledged, though, that he would fight someone else next if Pascal meets his contractual obligation to Dawson and is stripped by the WBC of his 175-pound crown.
“If not,” Hopkins said regarding an immediate Pascal rematch, “I’m looking forward and I’ll do it with the next leading, available opponent. Golden Boy [Promotions] is backing me real strong for this, and the WBC did the right thing for boxing and for fans, to order a rematch.
“[A Pascal rematch is] my first agenda, but I want to let people understand that I want to be the oldest champion in boxing ever, surpassing George Foreman, and maybe in any other sport. So that is important to me. That’s very important to me, to do that at 46 years old.”
Whatever happens, it is ironic that Dawson (29-1, 17 KOs, 1 NC), whom Hopkins has avoided facing the past couple years, could prevent Hopkins from getting the immediate rematch he wants against Pascal. During the ESPN2 broadcast tonight, Hopkins alluded to fighting again after beating Pascal or someone else in his next bout, yet didn’t mention facing Dawson, who obviously has the ability to top Pascal in their rematch.
“After I beat Pascal,” Hopkins said, “I’d like to go in and get [Lucian] Bute, and wipe out all the Canadian fighters.”
Bute (27-0, 22 KOs), the IBF super middleweight champ, signed a three-fight contract in November to fight exclusively on Showtime. His first fight with Showtime is scheduled for March 19 in Montreal, where the Romanian-born, Montreal-based southpaw will encounter Northern Ireland’s Brian Magee (34-3-1, 24 KOs) at Bell Centre.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.